r In recent weeks America has watched special elections in Kansas, South Carolina, Montana and Georgia. And with former Rep. Jason Chaffetz stepping down, Utah will be watched by America as we fill that lone Congressional cot.
With these elections a new form of credit card fraud has sprung up that needs to be warned of and exposed. With millions of dollars pouring into a candidate’s campaign, voters deserve to know where the money comes from.
In that Georgia special congressional election, Democrat Jon Ossoff’s campaign accepted more than $15 million from a progressive political money PAC called ActBlue. This political action committee was stunningly effective in its ability to raise money — bringing in more than $117 million in the first four months of this year. ActBlue seemed to raise most, if not all, of that money through the same process criticized by the Government Accountability Institute: unverified credit card transactions.
So this is where the need to warn potential contributors nationwide, as well as realize if one group has success in taking dollars not belonging to them, it won’t be long before imitators come along in other purchases and donations.
When ActBlue (thanks to the Internet that has nationwide reach) accepts money online, the PAC doesn’t check the credit card billing address, and it doesn’t ask for the CVV (security code) — so it has no way of knowing who is really giving the money.
The Government Accountability Institute raised the alarm in 2012, because this process practically invites illegal donations. Anyone who has a credit card number — or purchases gift cards — can log on to the Internet from anywhere in the world and donate to a particular campaign. That person can enter any name they want because ActBlue and many campaigns have purposely “opted out” of letting the bank use its normal instant verification process.
If, as a consumer, you accidentally type in the wrong ZIP code when ordering something online, the bank’s instant background check provides a red allowing you to quickly correct your typo. Yet, for anyone who deliberately wants to funnel money into campaigns through ActBlue, this verification process has been removed.
It’s not a new problem. In 2008, someone stole a Missouri woman’s identity to donate almost $175,000 to Obama’s presidential campaign via credit card. In that instance, the illegal donation was caught — but only because the same woman’s name was used over and over again. What’s to prevent someone from downloading a list of names into a computer program, and changing the “donor” name to avoid getting caught? And how are voters supposed to know when that happens?
There’s a simple solution: Political campaigns should use the same verification procedures that online retailers use: check the address and check the security code, but ActBlue doesn’t do that. Four years after the Government Accountability Institute report — eight years after the Missouri woman had her identity misused — ActBlue still accepts online payments in a way that virtually guarantees illegal donations.
In Georgia, Ossoff’s campaign accepted money from ActBlue — astonishing amounts during a campaign with unprecedented national attention. Georgia voters have no way of knowing where that money came from, or what might be expected in return for all that “dark money.”
While ActBlue operates nationally, Take Back works to expose unverified political donations in campaigns. While progressives and media rail against big donations, this aspect of “dark money” seems to have evaded them. Voters deserve to know where donations come from so we can shine a light on who might be trying to influence our elections.
To protect Americans everywhere from credit card fraud of this type, the group Take Back supports HR 1341 to require PACs to use industry-standard security measures when accepting online contributions.